A holidaymaker has lost his claim against British Airways after saying he was injured by being forced to sit next to an obese passenger
Stephen Prosser, 51, tried to sue British Airways for £10,000 claiming personal injury and loss of earnings after sitting next to a 23 stone man during a 12-hour flight from Bangkok to Heathrow.
Mr Prosser claimed he was unable to work for 3 months following the flight.
On Thursday, District Judge Andrew Barcello dismissed his claim, arguing that Prosser had “exaggerated” the description of the passenger.
Judge Barcello said: “Having heard his evidence, I have formed the impression that Mr Prosser had expectations of his flight experience that were unrealistic, given the class of cabin that he chose.”
“There was a significant disparity in their sizes and it is possible that Mr Prosser felt that he was towered over and may well have been of the impression that his space was being encroached upon,” he said.
“But I do not accept the suggestion that his size was such that Mr Prosser was compelled to sit in an awkward way for the duration of the flight by virtue of him encroaching upon his seating area.”
Ralli Director James Reilly weighed in on the issue: “In this case it is clear that the judge did not accept Mr Prosser’s evidence, which is what ultimately undermined the case notwithstanding that a medical expert must have supported the causation of his injuries for the case to have even reached Court. The judge seems on face value to have placed a lot of emphasis on the fact that the Claimant did not register any complaints during the flight and one wonders what the position would have been had he complained and whether alternative seating of any class was available to the cabin crew. Indeed what would be the airline policy to such a complaint from a customer, if on every whim a traveller could be “upgraded”, because they did not like the person/s sitting next to them it would cause a real issue for the airline.”
“In the future I do not see this as being the final episode in this debate. The airlines have secured the status quo for now but with increased air travel and ever expanding populations will the onus remain with passenger/s to pay extra for premium seats. The judge stated that Mr Prosser had unreasonable expectations given the class of cabin he chose. I am not convinced that would pass the consumer lobby; the customer legitimately has a reasonable expectation of travelling safely and I would suggest in comfort on an expensive 12 hour flight. The question is what subjectively constitutes comfort but will passenger expectations eventually outweigh airlines responsibility? In an era where airlines already charge for every conceivable extra that passengers take on board, will excess weight be considered a voluntary excess to be paid by the obese or will airlines have to make special provision,” Mr Reilly added.